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UMass stays unbeaten: Shrugs off N.C. State
By Mark Murphy, The Boston Herald Staff Writer, 12/2/2001

RALEIGH, N.C. - Steve Lappas does a lot of shrugging. Perhaps he also shrugged a lot at Villanova, but the gesture is new for UMass fans.

Kitwana Rhymer beats Julius Hodge to the loose ball.
And the reason for those raised shoulders is simple. The Minutemen are 4-0 as a result of yesterday's 69-62 win over North Carolina State, and for a UMass team that was fried by its nonconference road schedule last season, a certain buzz comes from winning in a hostile ACC arena.

Thus the shrug. Lappas never imagined something so sweet - at least not so early.

``Did I think we would be 4-0, knowing what the games were? No,'' he said.

His players, of course, don't have such a seasoned view.

``I wouldn't say I'm surprised,'' said senior guard Shannon Crooks, once again brilliant with 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists. ``We work real hard, and we just went out and won.''

That may be what pleases Lappas the most right now. His players don't believe that their hot start, which moved UMass to the top of the fabled RPI chart last week as a result of their tough schedule, is anything to wonder about.

And that's how they played yesterday, while escaping the Wolfpack's relentless, game-long pressure. The Minutemen turned the ball over 18 times, including a combined eight from guards Crooks, Anthony Anderson and Kyle Wilson.

But for the fourth straight game, everyone from the freshmen to the seniors made enough veteran plays to overcome mistakes.

``We knew they'd press us, but we didn't know that they'd come out with it for the whole game,'' said Lappas. ``We got fatigued at times, but we got such a lift from our bench, once again.''

Eric Williams, UMass' senior backup center, and sophomore forward Raheim Lamb once again carved their names deep into the box score yesterday - Williams with some brilliant play after Kitwana Rhymer picked up his fourth foul, and Lamb in helping to defend N.C. State freshman Julius Hodge.

Hodge, tracked throughout the game by Lamb and starter Willie Jenkins, finished with three points on 1-of-8 shooting. Like his team, which shot 34 percent from the floor, the highly regarded Hodge was never allowed to get comfortable.

And after briefly losing the lead early in the second half, the Minutemen came back with their reserves making as many big plays as the starters.

Rhymer left the game with 10:51 left, but with Williams seemingly grabbing every important defensive rebound over the next seven minutes, UMass clawed back to a 58-50 lead with 2:19 left on a Crooks drive.

The Wolfpack's Anthony Grundy struck back with a pair of hoops, including a fast-break drive after stealing the ball from Jenkins.

Though the Minutemen looked jittery at that stage, as evidenced by three pressure-forced turnovers in their previous five possessions, Micah Brand broke the string.

The junior forward took his man off the dribble and hit a short jumper from the left baseline for a 60-54 UMass lead with 1:13 left. The Minutemen, with Jenkins hitting the last four, then shot 9-of-12 from the free throw line over the last 50 seconds to seal the win.

Minutemen show poise
UMass notebook
By Mark Murphy, The Boston Herald Staff Writer, 12/2/2001

RALEIGH, N.C. - If there was any lingering concern about the worthiness of UMass' basketball tour of Greece in August, Shannon Crooks hoped to wipe it from the board yesterday.

Micah Brand and Andrew Theokas celebrate a victory in ACC territory.
The Minutemen went to 4-0 with their 69-62 win over North Carolina State, and in terms of overall team maturity, the senior guard can think of only one reason.

``Off the court we are a real tight team right now, and it all goes back to Greece, and what that did for us,'' said Crooks, who became the first Minuteman this season to break the 20-point barrier with his 20-point, 7-for-11 performance. ``We just kept our composure. Guys have not been scared.''

Got the Power

The Ratings Power Index (RPI), the strength-of-schedule-and-opponent system that comes into play when NCAA tournament berths are handed out, isn't exactly a poll that receives a lot of early season attention.

Unless you live in the Pioneer Valley, anyway.

Last Tuesday's win over Oregon - a team that had just waxed Louisville - was enough to push UMass into the No. 1 position in the index last week.

Yesterday's win over N.C. State (5-2) won't hurt, either.

If you're UMass coach Steve Lappas, of course, this is the time of year that you don't want to hear about the RPI, though he had little choice last week.

``I was home and heard screaming from another part of the house,'' he said. ``My son, Peter, is running around shouting `We're No. 1.' I told him that it doesn't matter yet. But it's good for my son, anyway.''

Pugh left behind

Sophomore Jameel Pugh, a forward who has struggled to earn regular time on this team, was left home in Amherst this weekend.

``He missed the bus (for the airport), and so we just left,'' said Lappas. ``The thing with me is that I'm not going to go for it.''

There has been speculation that the athletic forward from Sacramento, Calif., might transfer, though Lappas said yesterday that there is still room for Pugh in the program, if he follows the rules.

Lappas also brought sophomore point guard Anthony Anderson off the bench yesterday as a disciplinary measure.

``It's not a big thing - he was a minute late for a meeting - but I'm not going to go for it,'' he said. . . .

Senior center Kitwana Rhymer, after blocking five shots against Oregon, including four on 7-foot-2 center Chris Christoffersen, blocked three shots in the first half.

Minutemen come up big against small Pack
By Matt Lail, The Boston Globe Correspondent, 12/2/2001

RALEIGH, N.C. - The University of Massachusetts shot nearly 50 percent from the floor and better than 44 percent from behind the 3-point arc yesterday against North Carolina State. Still, it took junior forward Micah Brand's jumper from the left corner with 1 minute 10 seconds remaining to put away the Minutemen's Atlantic Coast Conference opponents and improve them to 4-0.

''That was a big basket. Maybe the basket of the game,'' said coach Steve Lappas, whose Minutemen overcame their toughest defensive foe of the young season in dispatching the Wolfpack, 69-62. Senior guard Shannon Crooks led the way for UMass with 20 points and seven rebounds, while Brand netted 14 points and sophomore Willie Jenkins added 12.

The undersized Wolfpack (5-2), with no player that sees significant playing time taller than 6 feet 9 inches, used a full-court press the entire game that resulted in 18 Minuteman turnovers - twice as many as N.C. State. But it was UMass's size that was the deciding factor. The Minutemen outrebounded the Pack, 41-30, and Lappas's squad outscored N.C. State, 30-24, in the paint.

''They've got a big, strong, and experienced frontcourt,'' said N.C. State coach Herb Sendek. ''They're good at making it difficult to shoot around the basket. That's one of the strengths of their team.''

Still, N.C. State's pressure kept the home team in the game. The cold-shooting Wolfpack (21 of 62 from the field) went on a rare streak, outscoring UMass, 11-4, in the first 81/2 minutes of the second half to take a 41-39 lead. But inside buckets by Kitwana Rhymer and Raheim Lamb, plus two free throws by Eric Williams, put UMass ahead for good.

''We knew that they'd press us, but we just didn't know that they'd come with it the whole game,'' said Lappas. ''Today, their plan was to come with it every second. We got fatigued a little bit at times.''

The Minutemen extended their lead to 58-50 with 2:18 remaining before N.C. State's press resulted in 4 straight points. But Brand quieted the home crowd with his corner jumper, and from there it was up to UMass to hit its free throws. The Minutemen converted 9 of 12 charity shots down the stretch to put the game away.

UMass raced to an early lead of 14-9 thanks in large part to, well, the Minutemen's large parts. The Wolfpack could not find success in the interior as Rhymer, last year's Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year, swatted away two first-half shots and drew a charge midway through the stanza. The Minutemen held a 21-14 first-half rebounding edge.

''I can't comment enough on what Kit did to start that game, defensively,'' said Lappas. ''Talk about getting out of the gate strong.''

Sendek admitted UMass's size might have intimidated his team early. ''It might have,'' he said. ''It shouldn't have.''

N.C. State closed the gap toward the end of the first half with a 6-0 run that was stopped when sophomore point guard Anthony Anderson followed Crooks's fast-break miss in the closing seconds to make the score 31-28 at the break.

Archie Miller's 18 points led N.C. State. Anthony Grundy added 14 for the Wolfpack.

UMass will next host Holy Cross Tuesday at 7 p.m.

UMass topples State
By Chip Alexander, The Raleigh News & Observer Staff Writer, 12/2/2001

RALEIGH - Less than a minute remained in the game Saturday, and N.C. State was in the final, frustrating throes of a 69-62 loss to Massachusetts.

Wolfpack coach Herb Sendek slowly paced back and forth in front of the State bench, taking sips of water from a cup. His red sports coat was long gone, discarded early in the second half. Behind him, thousands of Wolfpack fans were flooding up the aisles and to the exits at the Entertainment and Sports Arena, their backs to the court.

Sendek paced and sipped. Paced and sipped. He stopped briefly and crossed his arms. Then paced and sipped.

On the court, UMass' Shannon Crooks and Willie Jenkins were hitting free throws, one after another. Crooks, the Minutemen's talented senior guard, was finishing off a 20-point game as UMass improved to 4-0.

Finally, the buzzer sounded. Sendek shook hands with UMass coach Steve Lappas, then pivoted and headed to the locker room, his head down, his eyes on the floor.

It was the same scene many times last year, of course. But Sendek often left the court then thinking more about the missed shots by Damon Thornton or Damien Wilkins' turnovers.

On Saturday, he probably was thinking of how freshman Julius Hodge forced so much and achieved so little, of how freshman forward Josh Powell decided to be a 3-point shooter in the first half, of how to make Marcus Melvin more than an outside jump shooter, of how to get senior Archie Miller more shots, period.

He certainly was thinking about State's 33.9-percent shooting game, following the 27-percent stinker in the 64-50 loss at Ohio State on Tuesday.

Sendek knew there would be growing pains with this team, this year. But in the last two games, it has been more about the pain growing as the Wolfpack (5-2) turned what appeared to be winnable games into a haze of missed shots and opportunities.

"In many ways, our game had some of the same aspects of the Ohio State game," Sendek said. "I think we're still finding our way with our offense, trying to determine what is a good shot and what isn't a good shot.

"At the same time, I think our guys have come out with an attack mentality. In both games, right down to the final gun, they continued to play hard.

"But we've just got to become a better offensive team in terms of understanding when the light is green, when it's yellow and when it's red."

Grundy, who usually has Sendek's green light, was 6-of-20 from the field and missed 8 of 9 treys in scoring 14 points. Hodge, another green-lighter, was worse, going 1-for-8 from the field and scoring just 3 points. Melvin had six points on 1-of-5 shooting.

Hodge's shot selection could have been better. With the Pack trailing 48-44 with less than seven minutes to play, he forced a 3-pointer from the wing, then another baseline shot, the ball glancing off the side of the backboard.

Miller, meanwhile, got just six shots in the game. UMass went to a box-and-one in the second half, chasing Miller and limiting his looks, but he still managed 18 points after going scoreless at Ohio State.

But after the game, Miller didn't want to dwell on Hodge, State's youth or the freshman mistakes.

"The aggressiveness those guys came in here with is good," he said. "Sometimes it can work against you, but I would never take the aggressiveness out of the guys we have.

"There may be times when you have to pull back from that aggressiveness. But that's a positive."

A bigger problem, literally, on Saturday was UMass' inside strength. Michah Brand, a tough 6-foot-11 junior, 6-10 senior Kitwana Rhymer and 6-8 senior Eric Williams were brutally effective in the post, keeping Powell away from the basket and challenging any shots in close.

"That was an issue," Miller said. "We have slender guys. We don't have those 22-year-old frontcourt guys, those fifth-year seniors."

Brand had 14 points and two blocks, and Williams a game-high 8 rebounds as the Minutemen claimed a 41-30 edge on the boards.

"We knew that was something we had," Lappas said. "Our guys score, rebound, do it all. [Powell and Hodge] are going to have their ups and downs. They'll have days when they're great and days when they aren't."

Pressing and trapping, State cut the lead to 58-54 after a steal and layup by Grundy with 1:48 left. But Brand scored on a rushed baseline shot, State freshman Ilian Evtimov missed a shot and UMass started converting at the line, hitting nine of 12 free throws.

"We've got to grow up and step up," Melvin said. "We don't have juniors and seniors, so we've just got to suck it up.

"It's still early in the season and we have some kinks to iron out. Defensively, we're stopping teams but we have to feed off that, score and change the momentum of the game.

"The main thing now is not to feel sorry for ourselves. We just need to grow up."

If not, Sendek will be doing a lot of pacing and sipping.

A better schedule would benefit Pack
By Caulton Tudor, The Raleigh News & Observer, 12/2/2001

RALEIGH - Strange as it may sound at the moment, N.C. State's biggest basketball problem may be neither its inaccurate shooting nor its lack of experienced inside players.

Given the way the past week went for the Wolfpack -- a 64-50 loss at Ohio State on Tuesday and another against Massachusetts, 69-62, on Saturday in the Entertainment and Sports Arena -- State's worst enemy could be its soft non-ACC schedule.

Having missed these two opportunities to record a quality non-league victory, State really has only two more chances -- a game at No. 12 Syracuse on Dec. 8 and a Jan. 26 crack at Temple in the ESA.

The remainder of the outside games are generally against the same nondescript sort of opponents that State used to begin the season with five straight wins.

For the Pack, the non-league schedule is important for at least two reasons, one being the distinct possibility that the ACC -- past Duke, Maryland and perhaps Virginia -- could be uncharacteristically weak this year. Any wins over teams in the league's second division may not make much of an impression on postseason tournament selection committees.

But something else to consider is State's potential. This team has some. Granted, the Pack has some flaws -- much youth, limited size, erratic shooters. And yet, the Pack finally is a team with lots of interesting and in many ways, promising, parts.

"We're going to be a good team," senior Archie Miller said Saturday. "Two months from now, we won't even look like the same team we are right now."

Although he's always been an eternal optimist, Miller may just be right on this one.

Even on a day when they shot 34 percent and got mauled on the backboards against an undefeated Massachusetts team, the Pack's players showed enough athletic talent and defensive aggressiveness to suggest that impressive improvement could be possible.

"They're going to be a tough team down the road. They're battlers," said Massachusetts senior Shannon Crooks.

If not specifically tough, the Pack certainly should become more competitive as freshmen Julius Hodge, Josh Powell and Ilian Evtimov get more comfortable. Which is precisely why the schedule menu should have been planned to include more beef and fewer cupcakes.

State coach Herb Sendek knew from the start that his team would have to grow up quickly in order to relieve the job pressure he could be facing by late season.

With the graduation of so many key low-post players from a year ago, there was never any doubt that newcomers and lightly experienced sophomore Marcus Melvin would have to play prominent roles. The surest way to improve quickly is to face as much top-line competition as the team could handle without having its confidence crushed.

Sendek opted instead for the safety net.

Of the 13 non-ACC teams that the Wolfpack will face, nine should be hopelessly overmatched. The Pack has already and will continue to pile up wins over those teams.

But in the long run, the glut of gimmes may not greatly help Sendek's security or his team's power index. Including two or three more games against national top-30 programs would have sped up the team's growth rate while increasing the chances to record much-needed legitimate wins.

If you assume, as almost everyone does, State will go 0-4 against Duke and Maryland, the Pack is now fighting a formidable numbers war in the potential win column. To finish 8-8 in the ACC regular season, State would have to go 8-4 against the other six teams. The catch is that two or three of those six teams, maybe even more, may be very weak.

With some luck and an improved field goal percentage, Sendek is going to end up with an above-average team in his sixth season at State.

It's already clear that the Pack is willing to play harder and will likely work together better than the team that went 13-16 and 5-11 in the ACC last season. Right now, the team's parts are bigger than its whole. But the potential is there. A stronger schedule could have turned that potential into production a lot quicker.

UMass wins fourth straight
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 12/3/2001

RALEIGH, N.C. - The celebration was more subdued this time. The University of Massachusetts men's basketball team beat its second big-name opponent in a week, but the excitement after Saturday's 69-62 win over North Carolina State was tame compared with the aftermath of Tuesday's 62-58 win over Oregon.

High-fives and handshakes replaced hugs and hoopla. Granted, Saturday's outcome was a little more comfortable, but as the Minutemen moved to 4-0, they acted like they expected to win.

The Minutemen used a familiar recipe to become only N.C. State's third non-conference opponent to win in the Entertainment and Sports Arena in the building's three years of existence.

"It's been the same story: good defense, patience on offense," Lappas said. "But I'm really proud of our guys. They really compete. I didn't know what to expect coming on the road. But it doesn't seem like a whole lot phases these guys.

"They're fun to coach," he continued. "You don't ever feel like they're losing their poise or their composure."

UMass is 4-0 for the first time since going 26-0 in the 1995-96 season. The Minutemen return to action Tuesday at home against Holy Cross at 7 p.m.

Shannon Crooks led the Minutemen with 20 points and seven rebounds, while Micah Brand added 14. Archie Miller had 18 points for the Wolfpack (5-2), while highly touted freshman Julius Hodge was held to just three points.

For the fourth time in as many games, the Minutemen relied on big second-half plays to win.

With UMass clinging to a 45-41 lead, Brand missed a short jumper. Raheim Lamb tried to tip back the offensive rebound, but it rimmed out. As the Wolfpack players all collapsed toward the net in search of the ball, Lamb grabbed his own rebound and fired it out to Crooks.

The senior guard buried the open 3-pointer to give UMass a 48-41 lead with 8:41 left in the game.

"That was a big shot," Lappas said. "That gave us our first breathing room late."

The pro-N.C. State crowd of 10,801, which had been boisterous to that point, was almost instantly silent.

The Wolfpack tried to answer. Anthony Grundy hurried the ball up the floor and launched an ill-advised 3-point try that missed. Brand grabbed the rebound.

Even though many N.C. State fans conceded defeat early, leaving to try to beat the traffic, the players didn't, pressing the Minutemen throughout and using stifling defense on UMass' inbound passes to force turnovers late.

Four straight points by Grundy made it 58-54 with 1:48 left. The N.C. State defense smothered the Minutemen, who searched for any shot as the clock wound down.

Willie Jenkins fed the ball inside to Brand, whose back was to the basket. The junior big man spun and swished a fade-away jumper over Marcus Melvin to give UMass a six-point cushion.

"That was big," Lappas said. "He's made a lot of big baskets for us."

The Wolfpack was forced to foul and the Minutemen made enough free throws late to hold on for the victory.

Crooks struggled from the line down the stretch, going three for the six in the final minute, but Jenkins and Anthony Anderson made four and two, respectively.

Jenkins had 10 second-half points for a career-high 12.

UMass exploited its size advantage early. Kitwana Rhymer and Brand accounted for six of UMass' first nine points.

UMass stretched its early lead to 14-7, when Kyle Wilson buried an off-balance 3-point try with one second on the shot clock. The game stayed close until intermission. N.C. State cut its deficit to one on several occasions, but the Minutemen were able to answer each run.

UMass struggled at the end of the half with six turnovers in seven possessions, but Anderson tipped in a Crooks miss with three seconds left to give UMass a 31-28 lead at halftime.

UMass' offensive struggles continued in the second half. N.C. State opened the second half on a 9-4 run and took a 37-35 lead on a fast-break basket by Josh Powell.

Brand and Clifford Crawford traded baskets, Rhymer scored to tie the game at 39-39 with 12:14 left. Lamb put the Minutemen back ahead by scoring inside, but Powell put back a Melvin miss to tie the game for the final time at 41-41.

Eric Williams hit two free throws and Crooks stripped the ball from Grundy, setting up the sequence of Lamb's two rebounds and Crooks' 3-pointer that finished off the Pack.

Pugh in doghouse after missed bus
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 12/3/2001

RALEIGH, N.C. - Sophomore swingman Jameel Pugh was absent from the University of Massachusetts bench in Saturday's game against North Carolina State after missing the team bus to the airport.

UMass coach Steve Lappas didn't hide his frustration.

"I'm not going for it," he said. "He has some reconciling to do."

Lappas couldn't speculate whether the seldom-used Pugh was considering a transfer.

"I couldn't answer that if I tried," said Lappas, who added that he wants Pugh to return.

Pugh was at the team's practice Sunday evening.

Pugh has played just four minutes this season, all in UMass' 66-59 win over Marist.

Meanwhile, sophomore point guard Anthony Anderson came off the bench after starting the last two games for the Minutemen. Lappas said his offense was minor.

"Anthony was about a minute late for a meeting," Lappas said. "It wasn't a big deal. But I'm not going for it."

Senior center Kitwana Rhymer was similarly penalized for UMass' game against Marist. Anderson missed the team's first exhibition game for a violation of team rules.

Anderson entered Saturday's contest 5:10 into the game. He finished with six points, seven rebounds, four assists and two turnovers in 29 minutes.

* * *

Lappas continued to use a mixture of defenses with some man-to-man and zone. When his early zone led to two open 3-pointers by N.C. State point guard Archie Miller, Lappas switched to a box-and-one, a formation that UMass has rarely used but seen plenty of recently, as teams often employed it to slow Monty Mack.

"We decided if we were going to play zone in the second half that we weren't going to leave (Miller) alone," Lappas said. "In the first half we played straight zone and he got open in the corner and knocked them out. We said let's not let him beat us."

Miller finished with 18 points, but most of his nine second-half points came at desperation time for N.C. State.

* * *

Senior guard Shannon Crooks extended his streak of double-digit scoring games to six, dating back to last year's Atlantic 10 Tournament. His 20-point effort was the first double-decade game for a Minuteman this year. UMass is 5-0 in Crooks' career when he scores 20 or more. He is averaging a team-best 15.8 points per game, well above his 10.3 career average entering the season.

Men's basketball rolling right along
By Eric Soderstrom, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian, 12/3/2001

Raleigh, N.C.- Most young teams usually struggle when forced to deal with a series of distractions. The Massachusetts men's basketball team however proved the contrary on Saturday afternoon as it went down to Tobacco Road and knocked off a strong North Carolina State squad 69-62.

There were more than enough distractions all weekend long to derail the young Minutemen, but they persevered and did not let it all overtake them. They followed the lead of their seniors, notably Shannon Crooks at the offensive end and Kitwana Rhymer at the other, and came out on top.

The problems started for UMass before they even arrived in Raleigh with sophomore swingman Jameel Pugh missing the team bus to the airport and its flight, thus being left behind in Amherst. Pugh, who has only played four minutes this season, is trying to work his way into the Maroon and White's regular rotation, a goal made all that more difficult by this latest faux pas.

Pugh's absence however was not the only pre-game distraction for the Minutemen. Sophomore Anthony Anderson did not start at point guard for the first time since UMass' season opener against Arkansas-Little Rock after violating an undisclosed team rule. This was the second time this season that Lappas was forced to discipline the Lynn, Mass. native. Anderson missed the Maroon and White's first preseason game against the BABC All-Stars while serving a one-game suspension because of a team rule violation.

Despite coming off the bench Anderson made up for his mistake the best way possible, by playing a key role in the UMass victory. He scored six points, grabbed seven rebounds and handed out a team-high four assists while only turning the ball over twice in 29 minutes against the Wolfpack full court press.

That press was the major obstacle for the Minutemen to overcome once they stepped on the court. N.C. State had utilized its press in each of its first six games, but never had it sustained that pressure for all 40 minutes like they did on Saturday.

"We knew they would to press us, but didn't know they were gonna come with it the whole game," UMass head coach Steve Lappas said. "They didn't play that way against anybody. They were relentless with it."

That relentless pressure helped cause a season-high 20 turnovers, 13 in the first half, for the Minutemen and led to 17 points off turnovers for N.C. State. But it also led a number of bad fouls that, in the end, proved to be the undoing of the Wolfpack.

UMass made 15 of its 20 free throws, all of which came in the second half. Crooks was the only UMass player to miss from the charity stripe all day long, making just 3 of 8 on the afternoon. Not only did the free throws give UMass 15 extra points, it helped the Minutemen catch a quick breather, something that was necessary for a number of players who logged large numbers of minutes.

"I think we got fatigued a little bit at times," Lappas said. "We had some guys out there for a lot of minutes, Shannon with 35 minutes, Micah Brand with 36 minutes. But we got a heck of a lift from our bench, I was very happy with that."

The final distraction that UMass was forced to overcome was the raucous crowd of 10,801 inside the Entertainment & Sports Arena. This was the first time that UMass had played in a hostile environment in this young season and the young squad adequately handled the crowd and the noise.

"We just kept our composure, the guys just didn't show like they were scared," Crooks said.

The Minutemen opened the game on a 14-7 run to help take the crowd out of the game and never really let them get back into it. Even when the Wolfpack forged ahead early in the second half, the crowd never seemed to affect the Minutemen, as they were able to regain the lead and eventually hold on for the victory.

"I'm really proud of our guys, they way they compete, the way they play, the get after it," Lappas added. "I didn't know what to expect coming on the road but it doesn't seem like a whole lot fazes these guys. They're fun to coach."

Basketball notebook
By Eric Soderstrom, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian, 12/3/2001

RALEIGH, N.C. - Kitwana Rhymer must have felt just a bit on the elderly side Saturday afternoon. Because when the 23-year-old took to the hardwood of North Carolina State's Entertainment and Sports Arena, one of his former pupils - by the name of Julius Hodge - joined him.

"I've known Kit for a long time," said Hodge, who in 31 minutes of play, mustered only three points against the UMass defense - that score being a trey from the left corner to tie the game at 35-35 with 17:31 left in the second half. "When I was a kid, I used to go to St. Raymond's basketball camp. And he was the coach of my team for two of those years."

Both products of St. Raymond's high school in the Bronx, N.Y., Rhymer and Hodge are in different stages of their careers. Rhymer is a proven fifth-year senior, with last year's Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year award to his credit, while Hodge, a 2001 McDonald's All-American is still trying to prove why he was so highly touted as the No. 1 high school shooting guard in the country last year.

"We went to the same school and everything and I remember coaching him as a little kid in the camps," Rhymer said. "He's a good player. He'll definitely be good down the line."

So far this season, Rhymer is averaging eight points, six rebounds and over three blocks in UMass' four games. While Hodge, New York's 2001 Mr. Basketball, has averaged 10.7 points and five boards in the Wolfpack's seven contests.


At the beginning of the year, Steve Lappas said the No. 3 spot was the only questionable position in his lineup. But that has now changed. Willie Jenkins and Raheim Lamb are sharing time at small forward and are doing quite well for themselves and forcing Lappas to shy away from the small, three-guard set.

Saturday, Jenkins netted a career-high 12 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out three assists in 23 minutes. He also added six free throws to extend his streak of consecutive free throws after the 4:50 mark of the second half to 12 (coincidentally, where all of his attempts have come this year).

Lamb added just two points and two rebounds in 17 minutes of play, but did not turn the ball over for the first time this season. Together, the two are averaging 13 points and over eight rebounds a game.

"[Willie] runs the floor well, he knocks down shots, he's hit clutch free throws in the last few games, it says a lot," Shannon Crooks said. "Raheim - he just keeps going to the board, getting put backs, and we need guys like that on the team."

Lamb sat out last year as a partial qualifier, but under Proposition 48, was able to practice with the team for the entire season. Jenkins, on the other hand, was eligible to play, but managed only 75 minutes the entire season. So far this year, he has 81 and has started all four games.

"I'm not saying Bruiser (James Flint) wasn't a good coach, but his system wasn't doing it for me, so if he was staying I think I would have had to transfer," Jenkins said. "But then Lappas came in, so everybody started at zero. And that let me know that if I work hard I will get playing time."

Video clips

All clips in MPEG format.
Video clip Anthony Anderson cleans up after Shannon Crooks. (file size = 1.4mb)
Video clip Micah Brand hits the baseline jumper. (602k)
Video clip Brand slams one home. (474k)
Video clip Shannon Crooks takes it strong to the basket. (475k)

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Massachusetts Minutemen 69
North Carolina State Wolfpack 62
at NC State

Massachusetts vs North Carolina State
12/01/01  2:30 p.m. at
VISITORS: Massachusetts
                          TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS
01 JENKINS,Willie       f  3-7    0-2    6-6    2  4  6   1  12   3  2  0  0  23
33 RHYMER,Kitwana       f  4-7    0-0    0-0    1  2  3   4   8   1  4  2  1  25
40 BRAND,Micah          f  7-15   0-0    0-0    1  3  4   2  14   0  2  2  1  36
11 WILSON,Kyle          g  1-2    1-1    0-0    0  2  2   2   3   1  1  0  0  17
30 CROOKS,Shannon       g  7-11   3-4    3-8    0  7  7   2  20   4  5  0  1  35
03 BLIZZARD,Ronell         0-0    0-0    0-0    0  0  0   1   0   0  0  0  0   2
12 ANDERSON,Anthony        1-4    0-2    4-4    1  6  7   2   6   4  2  0  1  29
21 WILLIAMS,Eric           1-3    0-0    2-2    1  7  8   1   4   1  2  0  0  16
34 LAMB,Raheim             1-3    0-0    0-0    2  0  2   3   2   1  0  1  0  17
TEAM ........................................   0  2  2
TOTALS                    25-52   4-9   15-20   8 33 41  18  69  15 18  5  4 200

TOT-FG 1stH: 0-0 00.0% 2ndH: 25-52 48.1% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 48.1% Deadbl 3pt-FG 1stH: 0-0 00.0% 2ndH: 4-9 44.4% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 44.4% Rebs FThrow 1stH: 0-0 00.0% 2ndH: 15-20 75.0% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 75.0% 2

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- HOME TEAM: North Carolina State TOT-FG 3-PT REBOUNDS No. N A M E FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN 02 GRUNDY,Anthony * 6-20 1-9 1-2 3 3 6 3 14 2 2 0 3 30 11 MILLER,Archie * 5-6 2-3 6-7 0 1 1 1 18 3 0 0 0 34 24 HODGE,Julius * 1-8 1-4 0-0 2 1 3 3 3 2 2 1 1 31 33 POWELL,Josh * 5-11 0-2 3-3 1 5 6 1 13 1 3 1 1 33 54 MELVIN,Marcus * 1-5 0-1 4-4 2 3 5 3 6 1 1 2 0 26 03 EVTIMOV,Illian 1-5 0-3 0-0 0 2 2 2 2 0 0 0 0 15 21 WATKINS,Levi 0-2 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 8 23 SHERRILL,Scooter 1-1 1-1 0-0 0 0 0 2 3 0 0 0 0 7 30 CRAWFORD,Clifford 1-4 0-1 1-2 0 2 2 3 3 1 0 0 0 14 32 COLLINS,Jordan 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 TEAM ........................................ 2 3 5 TOTALS 21-62 5-25 15-18 10 20 30 20 62 10 9 4 5 200

TOT-FG 1stH: 0-0 00.0% 2ndH: 21-62 33.9% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 33.9% Deadbl 3pt-FG 1stH: 0-0 00.0% 2ndH: 5-25 20.0% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 20.0% Rebs FThrow 1stH: 0-0 00.0% 2ndH: 15-18 83.3% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 83.3% 3

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- OFFICIALS: TECHNICAL FOULS: Massachusetts - none North Carolina State - MELVIN,Marcus(1) ATTENDANCE: SCORE BY PERIODS: 1st 2nd OT1 OT2 OT3 OT4 TOTAL Massachusetts 31 38 69 North Carolina State 28 34 62

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